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  2010 Computing Reviews Editorial
January 1, 2010

Broad discussions in the community on practically any topic related to publishing and to the communication of computing research information hold relevance for Computing Reviews (CR) editors. Recent opinion pieces by both Vardi [1] and Fortnow [2] in Communications of the ACM seek to open up a wider exchange about the pros and cons of conferences versus journals as a means of disseminating research. The point is made in both pieces that computer science is singular among the disciplines in its adherence (preference) to conference paper presentations over fuller expression in a journal.

It is not difficult to find instances in which a CR reviewer notes a gap in treatment in the conference paper he has just reviewed for us. The reviewer suggests a point about the work, which really would have been interesting to read about, but it is just not there. The reviewer has done the best with what there was, but, given the limitations of conference paper lengths, we are left wondering or wishing. On the other hand, it is clear that conference items entice reviewers to self-assign them because they usually seem so timely and touch the most updated approaches.

Especially in computer science theory, it sometimes happens that an author will look for a place in which an assertion was actually proved, if the full proof is left out of the conference paper. But, sometimes, the work is never recast in full journal form. Leaving apparent “holes” or creating a literature base that is widely dispersed in multiple publication venues makes it more difficult to gather, especially for those outside a given specialty.

It is not at all clear whether there is a groundswell of support for reorganizing and dialing back the emphasis on conferences. Maybe this is something that affects theorists more than other types of researchers. Moreover, the practicalities of making a broad change, especially one involving people's habits, will be difficult.

I look forward to following opinions and reactions on this issue, in CACM and in individual blogs.

 

Carol Hutchins

Editor in Chief

 

References

[1] Vardi, M. Editor’s Letter: Conferences vs. journals in computing research. CACM 52, 5 (2009), 5.

[2] Fortnow, L. Viewpoint: Time for computer science to grow up. CACM 52, 8 (2009), 33-35.

 
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